Sunday, December 29, 2013

Beginnings, Resolutions, Immanuel

I love new beginnings.  New days, new weeks, new months, new years.  They all provide an opportunity to start over, to evaluate past mistakes and put them away and look forward to, and even plan, something new and better.  That brings to mind a wonderful verse about new beginnings for Believers.

Lamentations 3:22-23:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

We wake up each morning to a new day, filled with new opportunities to show our love for Christ.  Some days, even some years, we fail.  But God’s steadfast love never fails, His mercy never comes to an end, and He gives us a new chance every single day.  I am wavering and often unfaithful, but He never is.  Never.

As I look forward to a New Year, 2014, I have made a few resolutions.  There are things in my life I want to change.  Get back in shape physically.  Become a better person spiritually.  Be more self-disciplined.  Live more, love more, laugh more.  Live in the now but hope in eternity.  Those all sound great, don’t they?  But it’s not enough to have those grand general ideas, I have to translate them into actual daily practice.  No, I’m not going to list mine for you, but I have spent some time writing down specific, doable goals for myself under those broad categories, and I encourage you to do the same for yourself. 

Having said that, I have been thinking a lot about some things related to New Year’s resolutions, and would like to write about two of them.

The first resolution I want to write about is simple – spending time in God’s Word.  No matter what your other resolutions are, this is foundational to the life of a Believer.  I encourage you to set a goal for daily reading.  It doesn’t have to be a huge amount, just a bit each day will make a huge difference in your life.  This year I plan to read the Bible all the way through.  It’s not something I can manage every year, but when I did it several years ago it really changed the way I understand the Bible as a whole.  Back then I found a chronological reading plan to follow.  In years past I have also listened to an audio Bible and really liked that.  This year I plan to follow Tabletalk’s reading plan, which consists of Old and New Testament readings each day.  It is listed in Tabletalk Devotional Magazine, which I have been reading for several years, and that makes it easy for me to keep up with.  There are lots of different programs, some even have an app for yourphone.  Here is a link for several different programs to choose from.  Set a reasonable goal and go with it!

The other thing I have been thinking a lot about is living in the now.  Being totally in the here and now.  We live in a perpetually ADD society.  There is always background noise, and we have forgotten how to just be still and quiet.  Phones that keep up with text and e-mail and facebook and twitter and video games and music and even movies, go everywhere we go.  Our brains keep up with all that stuff and all that noise 24/7.  Life is no longer living life, it has become a huge escape from reality.  We have replaced relationships with texting and facebook.  We have replaced sports and fun activities with video games and wii.  We have replaced quiet moments thoughtfulness and reading with a constant stream of music and video.  We have replaced participation with entertainment.
So this year I plan to unplug more of my life.  No, I can’t unplug completely and still live in the world I have to live in, but I can unplug in a lot of places.  I can unplug when I am with a live person and focus completely on them.  I can unplug for more meals with my family rather than meals with the TV.  I can unplug for my appointment with God every day.  I can unplug to think or thoughtfully read a book.  I can unplug and actually go do things.  I can even choose to stay unplugged except for pre-determined time periods.  I suspect I may find that much of my plugged in life is like an addiction, and will be harder to manage than it sounds.  I wonder how ADD and a constantly plugged in life and addictions are related?

As I wrote this my mom walked into the room, and it was so hard to turn this off and talk to her! But isn’t that the point?  Isn’t that what God calls me to?  To live life that is happening right now?  To really put myself into the very real relationships in front of me?  In fact, isn’t that what Jesus did?  Immanuel, God with us?  Can I imitate Christ in that respect and enter into relationship with others the way He entered into the life of mankind as Baby in the manger, and Savior when He saved me?
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